Jan 09 2020

NRF 2020: Retailers Gather at the Big Show to Consider Their Next Steps

Technologies such as data analytics, augmented reality and artificial intelligence are on the agenda.

Modern retail is undergoing an extraordinary transformation, and some analysts have argued that the industry is in serious trouble. The investment firm UBS, for example, noted last year that retailers had closed more than 15,000 stores since 2017 and predicted 75,000 closures by 2026.

The primary reasons? Oversupply of physical retail space and the increasing popularity of online shopping, which today makes up 10 percent of all retail sales, according to the National Retail Federation (UBS expects online sales to reach 25 percent within six years). The industry was also roiled by several high-profile bankruptcies last year, including that of Toys R Us and Payless ShoeSource, leading some to talk of a “retail apocalypse.”

The reality is more complicated, say industry observers. It’s true that technology is playing an increasingly critical role in retailers’ fortunes. But the NRF, which kicks off NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show on Jan. 11 in New York, rejects the “online versus in-store” narrative that much of the media presents, noting that of the top 50 online retailers, almost all operate physical stores, and that retail sales have grown nearly 4 percent annually since 2010.

Still, industry leaders will swarm the Jacob Javits Convention Center for the 2020 Big Show to discover the best strategies for transforming their industry from a brick-and-mortar business model to one that’s omnichannel, data-driven and customer-centric. BizTech will be on the ground covering the conference and the many ways in which retail technology is evolving.  

Here’s what to expect: 

Data Is Central to the Industry's Future

Retailers can’t build new customer experiences, properly stock stores, make good pricing decisions or do much of anything without excellent data and analytics. At NRF 2020, they’ll hear from colleagues who are succeeding with data and meet with vendors offering the latest in analytics solutions.

Attendees will hear, for example, about how three retail chains — furniture company LoveSac, and clothiers Coldwater Creek and Talbots — leverage customer data to create dynamic customer journeys and real-time personalization at scale. 

AI, AR and VR Are Transforming the Customer Experience

Retailers are deploying artificial intelligence both online and in-store to help analyze data, deliver unique customer experiences (both onsite and online) and manage their back-end operations. PetSmart will discuss how it is deploying AI to manage its IT operations, and Amazon Pay will discuss the role of voice-based AI technologies in reshaping customer interactions.

Meanwhile, augmented and virtual reality are being harnessed to deliver modern customer experiences, both online and in-store, and Big Show attendees will see plenty of examples as they tour modern stores virtually and learn about clothier H&M’s efforts to create a more enriched and engaging customer experience by using AR and spatial computing.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read how to find the balance between ad personalization and customer privacy.

The Most Important Names in the Industry Will Be There

As the largest retail show of the year, all of the industry’s brightest lights will be on hand, as well as major figures from a range of other industries, especially technology. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will deliver the keynote address on Jan. 12. Other speakers include Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian; Target CIO Mike McNamara; Lowe’s CIO Seemantini Godbole; and Kohl’s CTO Paul Gaffney.

BizTech will be there for all of it, so keep this page bookmarked for articles and videos from the event. Follow us on Twitter at @BizTechMagazine, or the official conference Twitter account, @NRFBigShow, and join the conversation using the hashtag #NRF2020.

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